Sharing with peers from leading universities reveals common trends

By Andrew Simpson, VP Finance & Operations

I recently returned from a week of meetings and visits with a number of leading UK universities. We were also joined by a number of colleagues from Australia and New Zealand. The opportunity to visit with others is a great privilege, providing an opportunity for sharing, learning, and even the occasional revelation! These meetings reminded me that we share a common purpose and mission, and that our challenges are also shared. More importantly, they revealed new approaches and perspectives to our common challenges.

Leading universities are increasingly globally focused, recognizing that international engagement and participation is a key strength. In an environment where public funding and domestic tuition levels are continually constrained, international expansion has become an essential factor that is enabling universities to meet shortfalls, and providing opportunities for growth. Many universities have established international campuses, and expanded international enrolment. This poses important questions for universities about whether there are limits or boundaries around international expansion that should be established, and understanding the value of setting up an international campus.

Wider societal engagement continues to become more essential, particularly as public funding of universities is scrutinized by our political leaders, and our public consider the appropriateness of tuition levels. Community focused research and learning programs, activities, and events, combined with expanding communication and promotion through multiple channels are critical to success.

Our traditional view of activities and services that support teaching and research is evolving. Leading universities are rethinking and reimagining how to create the best environment for research and learning. The historic boundaries between central functions, faculty offices, and departments is being examined, associated with creating a highly integrated and seamless environment. In order to achieve this, outdated administrative systems are being replaced in order to improve services and enhance the experiences of our faculty, staff, and students.

At UBC, we are following a very similar direction to other world-leading universities. We are actively seeking to expand our resource base to meet needs throughout the University, focusing on opportunities for growth, and are engaged in rethinking our core administrative processes and systems. Critical to our success will be how well we can work together throughout the organization to identify both the opportunities and the problems, and participate jointly in taking UBC forward as one of the world’s most renowned universities.

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